[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----NORTH CAROLINA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat May 3 13:28:43 CDT 2008
Close call -- again-----Another North Carolina death row inmate is freed,
with a judge citing flaws in his defense and the case against him
Were Levon "Bo" Jones of Duplin County the very first person freed from
North Carolina's death row because of problems with his murder trial and
judicial doubts about the case, he still would be a good example of why
the death penalty is grievously flawed. But he is the eighth such person.
Jones spent 13 years on death row for the killing of a man in Duplin --
Leamon Grady, a bootlegger, was robbed and shot in his home in February of
1987. Jones was released yesterday, after charges against him were dropped
by the same district attorney who successfully prosecuted him in 1993. A
retrial had been planned, but the star prosecution witness recanted her
testimony that had helped put Jones and 2 others away. Prosecutor Dewey
Hudson still believes Jones was involved.
Jones was convicted along with a co-defendant who is serving a life
sentence. Another co-defendant who pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder was
released in 2001.
Jones' current lawyers maintain he is innocent, and Lovely Lorden, his
former lover and the witness against him, has long taken back her claims
that Jones did the killing. She now says she was coached by a detective.
In any case, thanks to U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle, who
offered a tough and clear-eyed assessment of the trial and all that was
wrong with it, Jones will walk free. Boyle, a veteran conservative jurist
with a reputation for calling them as he sees them no matter who is
involved, had ruled in 2006 that Jones should be taken off death row. He
minced few words in saying that Jones' trial attorneys, Graham Phillips
Jr. and Charles C. Henderson, had offered a defense that was
He said that the lawyers had failed to research Lorden enough to try to
discredit her with jurors and that they had been inadequately prepared to
talk to jurors about Jones' health problems and his troubled childhood in
order to persuade them to spare him the death penalty. Boyle ruled that
"but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding
would have been different."
North Carolina's death penalty has been on hold since last year, as legal
issues are debated, including whether doctors can be forced to participate
in any way in the execution process (the state's Medical Board says no).
But there have been too many instances of less-than-adequate defenses, of
excessive zeal by prosecutors, of questionable investigations. And yet
eight people who were on death row might well have been executed despite
the various flaws in their cases.
Boyle is a lifetime appointee who doesn't run for election and has no
motive to play to the galleries when it comes to controversial cases. He's
also a conservative Republican, and a man of the law with guts and
intellectual fortitude. That's the kind of jurist who was needed on this
Every episode such as this should be another lesson to North Carolina's
legislators as to the hopeless rationale that the death penalty can be,
always, fairly applied because the justice system is flawless. The system
may do right most of the time, but it is not perfect, and this one penalty
that cannot be corrected, or reversed, should be abandoned.
(source: Editorial, The News & Observer)
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